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Contrasts in American architecture

It’s been already nine months since I arrived to Florida. Time flies, but when looking back you realize that there are lots of things that you have learnt and details that you made yours. Of course, a new architecture is one of them.

My host company Romero VanRell Jeng and Associates is basically focused on international clients more than the local market so here I will speak about how my own personal vision as an architect in Florida is instead of diving into technical issues.  There are many aspects that I can see very different, but I would group them in three bullet points:

Lasting mentality. 

Traditionally in Europe, we are used to seeing buildings that were built to last. Stone, brick, and heavy materials are the general rule not only for how they get old but also how they perform for the weather in each region. In Florida, there is almost nothing but wood. This surprised me a lot, especially when after being here three months you find yourself in the middle of a hurricane wondering why they don’t use something different. After that, you learn that is just a different thinking, building with wood is just cheaper and faster and can be rebuilt as many times as needed. This is the first difference: build quick, build cheap, rebuild when you need.

Exterior projection.

I gave this name lacking for a better one.  I was used to living out of sight. Let’s say protected from the view and sun with garden walls, blinds and drapes. You cannot see personal belongings left for everyone where I came from. I was shocked the first months watching people at night inside their homes through the windows, common backyards with private pools clearly visible, or even someone´s furniture left few steps from public trails. Here people live projecting themselves to the exterior.

Simple/complex layout.

It looks that in Europe nowadays what we try is to simplify the architectural spatial relationship. It’s difficult to find a house plan with 45-degree angles unless strictly necessary by its location. Traditionally Europe was built in big cities with crowded centres and that led to having much less available space. That way old and new architects and builders struggled to create usable spaces, especially for housing. In Florida, almost every house and apartment will have angles different from 90 degrees in the original layout. It’s curious how in a place with a huge amount of available space this architecture appears. They try to create an interior interesting complexity.

This is my personal summary of nine months of an (architect) architecture user. I will keep learning for the rest of the time I have here, so probably my vision will change along. What do you think about it?

Ignacio Cerrón

Trainee at RVJAOrlando

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